DERS-2b #0510

The first New Haven RS-2s were delivered in December, 1947 - right after my initial era. But they were all on the property by October, 1948. And I found this beautiful Kent Cochrane photo of the 0503 on the Air Line Local:

So, of course, despite my declared commitment to the Steam Era on the New Haven, I had to add one of these to my roster.

Fortunately, Proto 1000 produced the RS-2 in the New Haven's delivery scheme. UNfortunately, the model had NO details! No grab irons, no lift rings (all of which are pretty standard on models nowadays), and of course no "New Haven specific" details. So the first step of the project was spending a day drilling holes and bending wire. It took a LOOOOOG time, and there were a couple steps back here and there for all the steps forward, but I was pretty happy with how the wire came out:

If anybody tells you that Custom Finishing #205 curved grabs for RS units will drop right in, they won't. And they're straight rather than the correct drop grabs. The Cal-Scale grabs (#190-533) are better, but you still have to form the long curved grabs from scratch. The Cal-Scale "RS Corner Grabs" (#190-529) are too large for where the NBW castings are on this loco.

When you need to bend wire at precisely the right length, get out your handy-dandy dial caliper (you DO have a dial caliper, don't you?) and do it like this:

I needed to make a bend at exactly .040" - so I set the caliper at .040" and used the internal jaws to make my bend, as you see above.

Here's a closer view, shot with the macro lense app on my phone. As you can see, you set the end of the wire at one side of the jaws and use the other jaw to make your bend.

For my next trick tip, I needed to mount the steam generator stack, but the bottom and the surface I wanted to mount it to was curved. I couldn't stand the likelihood of there being a gap at the bottom of the detail - and since the model is factory painted, I couldn't use gap filling CA or putty very easily.

So I decided to sand the bottom of the detail to conform to the curve of the carbody - as you see above. What you may not notice is that there's plastic wrap between the carbody and the sandpaper to protect the model's finish. And it and the sandpaper are held tightly to the curve. Just move the detail back and forth. Takes some care and patience, but it worked well.

As I mentioned, one of the big drawbacks of a Proto1000 model is lack of detail. This wouldn't be quite so bad if the model wasn't already factory painted (much easier to add detail to an undec shell) and I didn't want to strip and repaint. Worse, while there were helpful dimples/locators for the grabs, for all your other details you're winging it location-wise.

Extra details placed temporarily for location on a pristine short hood top.

So I was confronted with figuring out a way to mark the model so I'd know where to drill all the holes for the extra details. The solution: masking tape.

Took this photo after drilling and removing the cross-tape.

I used the factory-edge as the straightest part of the tape and eyeballed a centerline, as above.

And to get the fore-aft placement, I used crosspieces of tape lined up with features on the sides of the hood (edge of louver door, end of number board). I just marked and drilled along the edges and in the corners.

Trying to add detail to an already-painted/lettered loco can be pretty intimidating, but I found these tips helped a lot to make sure I was mounting the details evenly and consistently. I hope you find them helpful too.

Next, I turned my attention to the pilot.

Building on their positive experience with dual-mode diesels during the war years (the 60 Alco DL-109s/DER-1s), the New Haven returned to Alco in late 1947 for its first roadswitchers - the RS-2 (class DERS-2b) - and made sure they too were equipped for passenger service. In fact, many of the NH-specific details that have to be added to the RS-2 model have to do with adding passenger mode equipment.

But these details aren't limited to just adding a steam generator intake & exhaust stacks. One of the first things you notice about the pilot on the New Haven's version of the RS-2, is the presence of a passenger car diaphragm buffer.

Problem is, there's no detail part for this.

Well, there's this one:

Custom Finishing #306

and it's practically a drop-in for the Atlas RS-1 model. But it doesn't come anywhere close to fitting the Proto 1000 RS-2 model and, as a metal casting, isn't easily modified. So I figured I'd try making one out of styrene that would fit on top of a standard Kadee coupler box.

I started with a strip of .060x.118" for the main part of the buffer and HO scale 1x10 (.011x.112) for the sides. I quickly discovered that .060 wouldn't get me out past the end of the coupler box, so I added a strip of .060x.060 like this:

The buffers are .31" wide to allow the sides to clear the sides of the KD coupler box.

As you can see above, it's easier to use a long strip as a handle, gluing to both buffers at the same time (which I did on a piece of glass to make sure everything was flush). Then trim to fit.

Next, I added the sides as above. In addition to the perfectly-flat surface of the glass, I made sure the side was perfectly vertical by pressing it against a machinist's square as I added Tenax with a microbrush.

The above is the result. Repeat four times.

Once you're done, you have only to sand/file the corners of the main buffer itself and snip/cut the corners off the sides at an angle. This is what you'll have when you're done:

Now, unfortunately, I discovered that the buffer interfered with the coupler once I put it in. Ugh! Fortunately, fixing this was a simple matter of adding a .010" shim between the top of the coupler box and the frame/buffer, as below:

And - bonus! - doing so put the coupler at exactly the correct height (it had been ever-so-slightly high before. Um, about .010" high...)

The coupler still rubs on the buffer a little, but that'll be a simple matter of filing a little material away from the end of the buffer itself.

For an evening's work I'm pretty pleased with how these scratchbuilt buffers came out, though I'm considering redoing the sides to .020 wide so they'll cover the entire side of the coupler box (and look even more like the prototype - a bit more bulky).

Speaking of the pilot, I plan to replace the molded-on coupler lift bars and grabs with wire. The lift bars are no problem (Detail Associates makes the right bar, but the brackets aren't correct - though I think I can live with that), but who makes these crazy grabs?

They're pretty common on the prototype, and very distinctive with those double bends. I figured I'd have to make some sort of jig to bend wire, but decided to do some more layout construction instead. So the project sat on my bench for a couple weeks.

Then, as I was rummaging through some stuff looking for something else, I found this:

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is a FULL SET of RS-2 grabs, railings, and assorted details, brand-new in the package. According to the receipt I found with it, I purchased this way back in 2003 shortly after the Proto1000 RS-2 came out for the purpose of adding the details that the P1k model lacked. I wish I'd found this before I went to the trouble of bending all those body grabs.


While the wire does look MUCH better than the plastic, I decided to check the package for those funky pilot grabs. Yup! They were included. BONUS: the coupler lift bars are included as well - and they have the correct mounting brackets. Although these details are plastic rather than wire, I can live with the extra few thousandths(?!) of an inch difference in thickness to save time & aggravation and to keep this project moving forward.

Before I could install the new details though, I had to remove the old. Since I wanted to preserve the rivets and NBW detail, this was a bit more difficult than I expected. Here's what I started with:

First step was to use my flush-cutting sprue nippers to cut away as much detail as I could. Then I went at it with my favorite chisel which worked well until I had to remove the grabs - that area was just too tight and narrow.

Since I have a number of cheap little screwdrivers, I decided to sacrifice one by filing the tip down to make a very narrow chisel, as you can see above. You have to take extra care to do a good job chiseling away detail, but with time and patience you'll get everything off.

All the molded-on detail is now off, the rivets & NBW castings have survived, and holes have been drilled to accept the Kato details.

And here are said details press-fit into place (which is why the left grab is droopy). I wanted to test fit everything before figuring out how to route the MU pipes and where to locate the passenger car buffer.

MU pipes? Why, yes, I've decided to install MU capability just like on the prototype. Problem is, the part (Custom Finishing #347) is die cast metal and the end railings are likely delrin plastic. Not two materials that are likely to stick together.

Well, after much consideration and consultation with modeling buddies (including a suggestion to try and drill mounting holes and pin it all together - you know how tiny these parts are to try and drill?! %^), I decided to innovate a bit.

First, I taped the end railing down to wax paper to hold it in place and keep it from sticking to anything I didn't want it sticking to. Then I positioned the MU stand, noting where it would be touching the railings (primarily where the crosspieces touch inside of the railing's "V"). I had to file the crosspieces on the metal stand a bit to get things to fit snugly.

Then I put a large drop of contact cement in a water bottle cap and used a toothpick to apply it to the contact points on the railing and on the stand. Just a little will do - you don't want too much gooping up and looking nasty. Wait at least 15 minutes for the contact cement to set up, then carefully put the stand in place - as above. Since it's contact cement, you really have only one good try to get this right, so work slowly.

Once it's dry (I waited 24hrs, but that probably wasn't necessary), it forms a strong bond. How strong? Well, I haven't tried to separate the parts, but I can tell you that I bent the pipes (as above) while holding the stand/railings with my fingers and nothing broke free. So, so far so good.

Next, I wanted to tackle the chain guide for the hand brake. It's this part here:

Not sure why there's that red line, but whatever.

There's one on each side of the prototype, at the short-hood end (where the brake wheel is). When you ratchet/apply the hand brake, it pulls on these chains which in turn pulls out the brake pistons which applies the brake shoes to the wheels. It's not a detail that's typically included on models, but once you know it's supposed to be there, you notice when it's not there. The parts I use are Custom Finishing #147.

While I don't have a dead-on side view of the RS-2, I deduced that the guide lines up underneath the handrail stanchion closest to the cab. The problem on the P1k RS-2 model, is where to actually mount the part.

As you can see above, the "underside" of the frame on the model consists both of the model's metal frame and the plastic walkway. The notches above are in the plastic walkway and accommodate the tabs on the bottom of the handrail stanchions. The chain guide part is slightly wider than the walkway portion of the underframe, so you can't mount the part on the underside of the walkway (besides, that notch is too big). That would position the part too far "outboard" and, more importantly, you wouldn't be able to remove the walkway (the part would keep it from lifting off of the metal frame). So I decided to mount the part on the metal and marked the locations of the stanchion notches as you see above.

Before drilling the mounting hole, I got a couple of pieces of 2x2 to make a sturdy cradle for the engine. The side of the metal frame (that supports the walkways) just rests on the wood and keeps the delicate wires from resting on anything. See below:

With a sturdy base, I marked and drilled the mounting hole, being careful to keep the bit lubricated with bar soap. Having a Dremel flex shaft and foot pedal control makes this job much easier.

I drilled as close to the edge as I could, but it still positioned the part a little too far "inboard" for my taste. So I tried just notching the side in order to accommodate the mounting pin, but that left precious little contact surface for gluing - and the part kept just falling over and I couldn't figure out a way to hold it securely in place while any adhesive set up.

Speaking of adhesive: anybody ever try to solder a brass part to a metal (probably zamac?) frame? I don't think I'm going to try, but I'd sure like to know if anybody else has.

I finally settled on putting the part in the mounting hole that I'd drilled and decided to live with it being a couple thousandths inboard. I'll try to drill the other mounting hole even closer to the edge.

In the above photo, you can (hopefully) see the notch that I filed into the side - and that I didn't end up using. Also, the chain is A-Line 40 links per inch. The instructions for the part say that it's cored for 40lpi chain - don't believe them. I had to ream out the hole in order to get the chain to go through.

For adhesive, I decided to try Canopy Glue since I've heard from so many different folks (Scotty Mason, Mike Rose, etc) that it's a miracle adhesive. If it doesn't work for this application, I'll probably try contact cement again, but I'm certainly open to your suggestions for what to do here!

Photo above shows the walkway in place. Ideally, the chain guide would be centered over the joint between the walkway and frame. But it's already going to be sketchy keeping the guide from breaking off, so I want as much glue surface as possible. I'll be interested to see how it looks being so far inboard compared to the prototype.

Then again, maybe I'm being too OCD. Wouldn't be the first time . . . But I think it came out pretty good:

Next up: finalize the passenger car buffer position and glue all those end details in place, along with get some hoses too (air, signal, steam).

But before I do that, I needed to do a "dry run" to make sure that all the details fit and - most importantly - that they wouldn't interfere with good operation or each other. Best to do that before painting, in case any of them need adjustment. And it turned out that one of the sets of MU pipes needed significant adjustment to clear both the uncoupling lever and the passenger car buffer. The other thing I needed to be sure would fit is the air distributing valve. You'll see it just behind the cab on the fireman's side. I couldn't test fit that accurately until both the cab and the railing were in place.

So, here's how it looked for its "dress rehearsal" - everything's in place except for the steam heat pipes/couplings (which have plenty of room). As always, you can click on the image for a larger view.

In addition to the hood top details (which you can see much better here and here), you see here the air distributing valve behind the cab, speed recorder, handbrake chain and guides.

Front view showing the MU stand and hoses, passenger car buffer, cut lever and end grabs, and air/signal hoses. You've seen the added markers and grabs before.


Rear view showing more clearly the speed recorder, air distributing valve, and short hood steam heat details. The pilot details are the same as on the front.

Next step is to take it all apart again(!) to paint the details.

Painting is one of those things that I always dread, but which (almost) always turns out to be fine in the end. For me, it's mostly about finding a large enough chunk of time to "work my way into it" - not to mention the fact that there's always prep involved. And cleanup.

But the actual painting is usually the easiest part of painting, especially if you have some helpful tools. Here's a couple you may not know about...

There are a LOT of details on this engine that need to be painted before they're applied. And many of those details are TINY. So I used some old clothespins with the jaws reversed to make handy holders. Just pinch the mounting lug that doesn't need to be painted (and probably shouldn't be). I also used tried and true masking tape to hold a couple of details that didn't have anything to hang on to.

Tiny parts after painting

I also wanted to spray some Dullcote on the truck sideframes, fuel tank, and water tank prior to weathering with chalks and/or PanPastels. The Dullcote not only tones down the glossiness of these parts as they come from the factory, but it'll provide "tooth" for applying the powders. Problem is - I really didn't want to have to remove the truck sideframes since I'd already attached the brake chain guides and speed recorder details. Next time, I'll Dullcote first.

Solution: A quick mask made from cardstock:

I just placed it behind the sideframes and used a pencil to mark where I needed to cut notches to allow it to nest down nicely behind. This not only protects all the mechanical bits (motor, decoder, wires, trucks/gearing) but also keeps too much overspray from getting on the wheels. (though I will clean the wheel treads later with lacquer thinner).

Oh - I should also mention my impromptu loco cradle. I couldn't insert this mask behind the sideframes from above since the loco frame is in the way. So I had to put the mechanism on its back. But I didn't want to crush any of the delicate decoder wiring (not to mention the decoder), so I just used two scrap pieces of 2x2 and rested the frame/walkways on those as you can see above. Just be careful when you go to grab this get-up: You don't want the two 2x2s to rock in your grip and end up dropping the mech. Ask me how I know.

And with that, I waited for everything to dry and put everything back together. Next up - Finish Photos and the Bill of Materials

List of Detail Parts Added